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For Jax, Wrestling Is Not Just Wrestling

By Bill X. Barron, 11/12/18, 4:00PM MST

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2X State Placer, Freestyle National Champ

Jax Garoutte – CO & the Steel City Studs

Wrestling Is Not Just Wrestling

By Bill X. Barron

“Wrestling teaches you so many lessons through hardship and sacrifice. On the mat by yourself, you learn that wrestling is not easy. Life is not easy. To have wrestled is to have lived.” These insights parallel the identity that Colorado junior Jaxon Garoutte has cultivated while representing his state on several national teams, earning status as an NHSCA All-American, winning multiple state freestyle championships, and twice placing in the state high school championships (3rd and 2nd).

His father Denny, coach of the Steel City Wrestling Club (Pueblo), says his coaching philosophy “evolved into a mission to change kids’ lives. Our ethic is work hard, be consistent, and do it the right way.” Together with Coach Rick Willits – sons Hunter 4X state and 1X HS national champ; Grant 3X state champion and HS AA; and Keenan 3X state placer – and Coach Aaron Bonham (son Nathan 3X state placer and HS AA), they built the club into a state and national contender and champion.

In just ten years, Steel City has produced 24 high school state champions (plus 17 finalists), 80 state place-winners, 13 All-Americans, and 3 national champions in 3 styles: Hunter Willits (NHSCA), Ashlyn Ortega (women’s freestyle), and Brendon Garcia (Fargo Greco). In addition to several RMN national team and a dozen Colorado youth state titles, Steel City has earned a Reno World Team Title (15U), twice finished as Tulsa runner-up, and contributed heavily to state high school championship teams at Pueblo County 2X and Pueblo South. This year’s County team opens the season ranked 18th among the nation’s best high school programs.

A two-time member of Colorado’s All-Academic Team, Jax explores his interest in “hands on learning, building and creating” at County’s School of Engineering and Biomedical Science, while planning to pursue a career as a mechanical engineer. Jax has utilized this same approach to develop into a successful wrestler: “My central focus is on improving myself. If you concentrate on how you want to wrestle, the end result will be what you want it to be.”

Jax has maintained his focus on improvement by “being the best person I can be. As I perfect myself as a wrestler, being the best also means learning from losses.” He admits that it is challenging to have had his dad as a coach: “He is hard on me and is just as passionate about the sport as I am. But I know it only makes me better as a wrestler and as a person.”

Coach Denny is “most proud of all the young men who have graduated high school, gone on to college, and become admirable as well as successful young citizens. It has been awesome to watch them each grow into productive young men who provide for their families and communities. They had to overcome so much to get there,” including traditionally lower expectations for the area’s students. Coach Denny’s continuing vision is “establish better coaching opportunities – to be a solution” to what the greater wrestling community needs.

Steel City has valued their participation in RMN Events. Denny says that “RMN provides fantastic opportunities for local kids to touch out-of-state competition. Without RMN, we would not the club we are. It became a platform for our kids to grow at a high level.” Jax states: “When I first started participating in RMN Events, the goal was to place. Then I started to win and do well. The toughest dudes from Colorado and all over were there. It prepared us as a club to be where we are now.”

In Jax’s wise perspective, “wrestling is more than wrestling. If you focus getting the basics down and on doing things right, rather than on simply winning, then winning – on and off the mat – will come in its own time. I am just focused on becoming the best person and wrestler I can be.”